The Story of the Christ Cradle
Mehera, Avatar Meher Baba’s beloved and closest disciple, loved nature very much. Meher Baba said that Mehera represented Maya—the creation. Mehera loved to be in nature and appreciated the specialness of many of the plants and trees. In her garden at Meherazad she grew a succulent vine called Christ Cradle (or Night-blooming Cereus). It has a beautiful pure white flower that only opens at night and only for one night. In the center of the flower are many soft pollen-bearing stamens which grow in the shape of a cradle. Above the cradle is the pistil growing in the shape of a star, which represents the star that guided the three wise men to the stable where Christ was born. When the Christ Cradle blooms it has a beautiful scent.
Christ Cradle blooming at Meherazad
Mehera told the story that one day at Meherazad the Christ Cradle vine was laden with flower buds ready to bloom. She and the other women mandali wanted Baba to see the opened flowers. So, at night, Baba with the women went out into the garden to see the Christ Cradle. Mehera was delighted that 40 of these most beautiful and magical flowers had opened and were shining in the moonlight for her Beloved to see.
When the Meher Pilgrim Centre was being built (1977 to 1980) Mehera took a great interest that trees and plants should be planted at Meherabad so that Meher Baba’s lovers would be welcomed by the beauty of nature. Mehera even had a nursery at Meherazad so that she could send plants to be planted at Meherabad. It was only natural that she sent cuttings of the Christ Cradle to be planted in the gardens in and around the Meher Pilgrim Centre.
After several years, in one of the gardens on the women’s side, the Christ Cradle was ready to bloom for the first time. Since the Christ Cradle only opens at night the pilgrims asked special permission to stay up past the 10 p.m. curfew so that they could see the flowers open. Ironically the impatient pilgrims kept shining their flashlights on the flower buds to see if they had opened. What they didn’t know was that the flower is light-sensitive and only opens after a certain period of darkness. By their actions they were preventing the flowers from opening. Finally around midnight the flowers did open, to the great joy of the pilgrims, who were able to share with Mehera their experience.”
One day my friend Eric Nadel told me that the Christ Cradle doesn’t just open at any old time but that it opens on special occasions. And I found that to be true in the following story:
When Baba’s sister Mani went to Baba, she was cremated at Meherabad. I was at Mani’s cremation and after most people had left, Jal Dastoor came to me and asked if I would stay up all night watching over Mani’s pyre. For me Mani’s passing was a momentous occasion, a spiritually historic event. At night, with a few others also staying up all night, I had a feeling that great souls whom I could not see were coming to Mani’s pyre to pay their respects to her.
In the morning, around 6 A.M, people started coming to Mani’s pyre. As I was not needed any more, I walked over to the MPC. In the front of the MPC is a neem tree. A Christ Cradle vine was growing up the tree. Looking up I saw that all its flowers had opened, which is unusual. To see this made me feel joy in my heart. Then I went to the women’s side garden. Looking up at the Christ Cradle there, I saw that all of those flowers had also opened. I then went to the MPC nursery on the men’s side. As I was puttering around the nursery, I looked across the field and saw smoke rising from Mani’s pyre. (Mani’s pyre burned for three nights.)
In the MPC nursery is a self-planted Bodhi tree. The Bodhi tree is the type of tree that Buddha was sitting under when he became God Realized. Looking up at the Bodhi tree I saw that there was a Christ Cradle growing on it that I had forgotten about. All seven of its flowers had opened the night before. To see this touched my heart deeply. That all the Christ Cradle flowers had opened on the night of Mani’s passing made me feel that the natural world was saluting who Meher Baba’s sister Mani was!
— Bif Soper for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 28 September 2017